ZUZANA ČAPUTOVÁ, President of Slovakia, observed that the world was in a much better place than the previous year. However, although scientists succeeded in developing vaccines that offered a clear path out of the pandemic, she warned that “the politics are still failing”. Spotlighting deep disparities in the distribution of 5 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to date — with 75 per cent of them going to just 10 countries — she cautioned: “Vaccine egoism will only delay the pandemic’s end and lend time to new more lethal mutations.” Solidarity must be the world’s binding principle, not an option.
Her country will continue its support to the global COVAX Facility, she continued. Still, even as the world closes in on the goal of ending the COVID-19 pandemic, it must not rush back into business as usual. “Our memory of how things were must be complemented by our reflection on whether they were right,” she said. It was urgent to save the planet from the climate crisis, she stressed, recalling that the world has waited so long that many options available to previous generations had run out. The findings of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change might be shocking, but they were merely stating the facts. The international community was able to strike a deal on fair global taxation in fewer than six months. Therefore, the same must be done to prevent global carbon leakage. The upcoming COP26 must set the pace for a much swifter adaptation and radical emissions cuts.
To that end, she pledged that Slovakia will reduce its emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 and become climate neutral by 2050, along with the rest of the European Union. By 2023, coal will no longer be used to produce electricity and heat. Furthermore, in the coming years, Slovakia will spend almost 6 per cent of its GDP on economic recovery. One third of that amount will go into the country’s green transition. Her country was committed to action and sharing lessons learned with other nations. Saving the planet also required upholding a rules-based international order and the rule of law — both at home and abroad. Violations of those rules endangered everyone, “not only those directly affected in Ukraine, Syria, Myanmar or the Sahel region”, she emphasized.
Urging countries to make their own democracies more resilient while supporting those around the world who are demanding their basic rights — including the freedom of speech or assembly — she pointed out that, in Belarus, 650 people were recently prosecuted on political grounds. Similar challenges exist in occupied Crimea, Venezuela, Russian Federation and China’s Xinjiang Province. Meanwhile, developments and lessons learned in Afghanistan must remain high on the international agenda. The global community must provide humanitarian assistance to that country’s population, 40 per cent of whom face acute food insecurity, as well as protect the legitimate rights of Afghan women and girls.
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